Introduction to the Visual Arts

Art & My Major

Art will meet you more than halfway.

This summer we’re looking at a wide range of art, ideas, and media. Vlogs, sculpture, zines, photo, painting, drawing, performance art, environmental art, and so much more. Even though we have a lot of diversity this summer, most of our examples come from art.

Last summer we had a number of Biology majors in Art 110. They thought it’d be cool to have a week where we can each look at how Art and our field can interact. In the case of Biology, Illustration has a long history in both Biology & Medicine. And there’s John J. Audubon’s Birds of America. But, beyond practical uses of art in other fields like Biology, there is also a space where Art Meets Biology. Where artists interested in biology, and biologists interested in art, make works at the intersection of their fields. I think this is true for every major we have in Art 110 this summer.

A Few Examples


Here is Four Shades of Grey by Julianna Paradisi RN, OCN. It’s a photo-composition from her series Color-Coded For Your Safety where she arranges flip-top caps collected from medication vials commonly used in hospital pharmacies.

Four Shades of Grey artist: JParadisi 2011


Here’s an image from the BioArtography project at the University of Michigan.

In the course of research, scientists use special stains to add color to the otherwise transparent tissues. Microscopes then allow detailed observation. The tiny biological structures revealed in these images are beautiful; we share them with you here as a fascinating combination of art and science that we call BioArtography.

Patterning FatesKyoung Jo, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow (Heemskerk Laboratory), Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan Medical School


Eric Singer has a computer science degree from Carnegie Mellon University:

Computer Science

Garnet Hertz was an Informatics student at UCI when he created his Cockroach Mobile Robot


Nathalie Miebach takes weather data from massive storms and turns it into complex sculptures that embody the forces of nature and time. These sculptures then become musical scores for a string quartet to play.

Electrical Engineering

Kelly Heaton creates circuits that are life-like.

Life-like circuits by Kelly Heaton

Human Resources

Bob Fox & Ebbie Wisecarver discussing the 2021 Next Work Environment competition:


Luke Jerram took several years of New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) data and rotated them about their X-axis to create sculptural objects:

Art Activity: Art & My Major

For our art activity this week, use something about the ideas or media of your major to create a work of art. There are 2 ways you can do this project:

  1. Come up with a small-to-medium project and actually create, perform, or execute it this week
  2. Come up with a project too large to achieve in 1 week and design it this week

Whether you fully create the project or design it, your Canvas blog post should feature a discussion of what your project is and why you find it interesting or useful.

If you complete the project, include photos or video of what you created:

  • What was your original idea?
  • Did it change as you went along? How?
  • What research did you have to do?
  • How did the execution of the project go?
  • Was your project successful? Why? Or, why not?
  • How do you feel about the finished project?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • Do you think your Major/Career can be enhanced by thinking about Art?
  • How can Art enhance or empower your Major/Career?

If you Design a large project for potential future execution:

  • What is your idea?
  • What about it demands more than 1 week to perform?
  • What materials, information, data, or other resources will you need?
  • What research will you have to do?
  • How would you go about executing this project?
  • What potential problems do you see in achieving your goals?
  • How will you determine if your project is successful or not?
  • Do you think your Major/Career can be enhanced by thinking about Art?
  • How can Art enhance or empower your Major/Career?

If you design a large project, be sure to include Sketches, Photos, and/or Videos that clearly describe how you would execute your project.


Like every other week of summer, I hope this week’s activities & artists are fun, interesting, exciting & enjoyable for you to play with and think about. This week we’re specifically bringing your Major/Career Goals into our activities. You should be able to think of a number of ways that this could be relevant to your career.

So many careers today involve large amounts of data. This data can often be abstract and hard to understand. The power of creative data visualizations could help people and organizations. The ability to analyze and present data with visual power could help your career.

A field like Accounting might seem fairly regular, rule-based, and predictable. But as the quantities and axes of your data grow and grow, the number of stories hiding in that data also massively grows. The ability to “creatively” look through that data could yield new and unexpected insights that could help an individual or company in many different ways. FedEx jets used to be purple. Today they’re white with just a purple tail. Why? Because a few years back some accountant figured out that purple paint was heavier than white paint. Purple contains more microscopic mineral bits than white. Does that matter? If you’re a freight company, purple jets cost you over a million dollars a year extra in jet fuel.

When you graduate from Long Beach State you’ll be entering a career market with some strong skills. But there will also be thousands of other new graduates across the country and the world with comparable skills. The ability to think and present creatively could help differentiate you and enhance your career prospects.


Synaesthesia is a “rare” phenomenon. I put “rare” in quotations because it turns out it’s more common than we used to think. It is a crossing of sensory experiences. If you feel a piece of fabric and have a taste sensation, that’s synaesthesia. If you listen to music and have a visual experience, that’s synaesthesia.

The most common type of synaesthesia is “color-number” synaesthesia, where people see numbers in color. Psychologists have done tests where they hide numbers in large fields of other numbers all in black-and-white. For normal subjects, it takes a long time to find the hidden numbers. Color-number synaesthetes find the hidden numbers dramatically quicker because they see them as different colors and they leap into the perceiver’s attention.

There are theories about why some people are synaesthetes. It seems to come from extra neuronal pathways between different modules in the brain. It turns out that artists have a significantly higher incidence of synaesthesia than the general public. It may be from some early adaptability mechanism in our human ancestors.

What’s so interesting about our digital age is that you no longer have to be a born synaesthete. When Nathalie Miebach takes weather data and produces it as music, that’s a sort of digital synaesthesia. A few years back an astronomy student at CalTech took an image of the Merope Nebula and used “digital synaesthesia” to translate it into a sound work. Others have taken the music of, for example, The Nutcracker and digitally transformed it into visual mandalas.

Perhaps several of the artists I’ve shown above are digital-synaesthesia-like. If you held Luke Jerram’s sculpture in your hand and ran your fingers over it, you’d be tactilely experiencing the rise, fall, and crash of the stock market. If Jerram realized his sculpture at an even larger scale, say the scale of a roller coaster at Disneyland, Universal, or Six Flags, then you could physically, viscerally, “ride” the movement of the stock market.

Synaesthesia and Digital Synaesthesia may seem a bit exotic. But they may also be powerful techniques for Art and Your Major to interact and discover new insights. They just might be the sort of creative insights that can help launch your career or take it to the next level.